One of the most necessary liberations comes when you discover that what other people think of you is not the same as who you are.
When you can stop identifying yourself with the stories, mistruths and assessments of others, you can also free yourself from a constant inner pressure to appear as you think people want, or expect you to.
But once you know this, another wisdom must be taken on.
You have to understand that other people are not the same as your stories, perspectives or assessments either. That means that whatever you think you know about them can only ever be partial; one aspect, a single angle on a situation way more complex than you’ve allowed for. Whatever you see, know you are blind.
Once these truths are mastered, know also that the story you tell yourself about you, about your own limitations, your acceptance in the world, your abilities or inabilities, is also not who you are. They too are a judgement, blind to the whole you; distorted tales from long distant memories or unintended fabrications from your past. Knowing this allows you to silence your inner critic. It relieves you from the self imposed weight of expectation, the burden of disappointment, the constant sniping at your capability, your value, your contribution, how you come to this world.
This awareness makes space for compassion. Compassion for others and compassion for self.
Roald Dahl’ first children’s book was The Gremlins.
The term gremlin refers to an imaginary mischievous sprite lurking in the electrics. World War II pilots coined the phrase when their engines, mechanics or electronics developed unexpected faults. In Dahl’s book, written in the 1940s, the gremlins’ motivation for sabotaging aircraft is revenge for the destruction of their forest home, which was razed to make way for an aircraft factory.
As human beings, neurons in our brains fire electrical impulses. This is how we think.
Often however, we have glitches in our own electrics; our thinking engines. For many of us, annoying little programmes have infiltrated our thinking process. This unwanted code, this inner voice, runs despite our wishes. The inner voice becomes a habit. It becomes something we routinely tell ourselves, in our heads. This self talk sabotages us. Derails us. Causes us to detour or to crash land. Often these little subroutines of code take the form of “I can’t…”, “I shouldn’t…”, “If only…”, “I’m not good enough to….”. They are self judgements and limiting beliefs.
The familiar friends of these little inner voices, the ones who speak up most regularly, become our gremlins. Mischievous little sprites lurking in our thinking.
In Roald Dahl’s book, the gremlins are persuaded to change their habits and are retrained to repair aircraft rather than sabotage them.
Maybe we need a gremlin retraining school?